Caught on tape
By Simon Watkins (October 2002)
LTO Ultrium stakes its claim as the new standard in high-performance data protection
Houston, we have a problem. Never mind the cause. Whether because of a disk malfunction, a power outage, or a rain of frogs, your data just vanished and your business is about to hemorrhage millions in revenue by the hour.
In the ever-changing world of e-business, the only constant is data—lots and lots of data. Indeed, your business creates massive amounts of data each day—information that is compiled, analysed, moved, shared, and sometimes lost in an instant.
That's why an effective, ongoing backup routine is essential. As your business increasingly relies on data-rich applications to generate revenue and optimize costs, you need the comfort of knowing you can bounce back from any disaster—large or small. The only question is which backup storage medium best meets your performance, reliability, scalability, and cost requirements.
Data come, data go
Traditionally, magnetic tape has been the most cost-effective means of data storage, and it continues to play a major role in helping companies recover from most types of information catastrophes. However, older tape formats, such as Exabyte Mammoth and Digital Linear Tape (DLT), fall short of the escalating demands of today's enterprise applications.
To be an effective backup and restore solution, tape must be reliable and ensure data is backed up on the first effort and restores are comprehensive. After investing significant capital in a backup technology, the last thing you want to hear is that your data is gone and never coming back.
Tape must also store and restore large amounts of information in the time your business requires. As users increasingly access corporate networks outside of "regular" business hours, the window of opportunity to perform backups continues to shrink. The need to back up more data in less time puts a high premium on scalability and performance.
That is why Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Seagate co-developed Linear Tape-OpenTM (LTO). LTO® technology offers the reliability, scalability, and performance that today's IT environments now demand of tape storage solutions. The LTO Ultrium® format uses a single-reel design and half-inch tape. This approach maximizes the amount of tape surface area for higher capacity, while maintaining a small form factor for valuable space savings. And, as its name says, LTO is completely open, offering companies greater choice, better pricing, and fewer integration headaches than proprietary tape solutions.
Open for business
The LTO Ultrium format satisfies the high capacity and streaming backup requirements of today's enterprises. It combines and enhances features of existing tape technologies, including hardware data compression (a single tape can house up to 200 GB) and timing-based servo, which is a read/write method that can help boost reliability by ensuring that heads are positioned precisely over the correct tracks on the tape. LTO Ultrium also raises the performance bar for tape technology by offering a sustained data transfer rate of up to 15 MB/second.
Moreover, LTO Ultrium is totally open, removing the disadvantages of proprietary tape formats. In the past, the selection of a tape drive usually depended on the tape media format. Even if there were two sources for the media, typically only one vendor made the drive. The openness of LTO ensures that a compliant tape drive from any vendor can read from and write to any piece of compliant tape.
An open tape standard creates interchangeability and greater competition among vendors. And, with more than 30 licensees and support from a wide range of tape drive, media, automation, and system vendors, competition within the Ultrium format is already intense. For customers, this competition leads to quality products, innovation, and widespread availability at the best prices.
An independent company—the LTO Compliance Verification Entity (CVE)—ensures the unique level of interchange across vendors and generations of LTO Ultrium products. The CVE defines, administers, and executes a format verification program for both drives and cartridges. Only products that pass initial and subsequently annual compliance verification tests can use the Ultrium format trademark.
Up for adoption
Currently, 31 vendors act as LTO Ultrium technology licensees. These include three drive vendors and eight media licensees, accounting for a whopping 95 percent of the world tape media supply. Vendors shipped an estimated 175,000 compliant drives and 2 million cartridges between the launch of LTO Ultrium in Q4 2000 and Q3 2002. In 2001, LTO out-shipped SuperDLTTM solutions by a factor of more than two to one.
OEM endorsement is another key to the success of any new tape technology. LTO has received universal automation vendor endorsement from every major library manufacturer; each announced availability of compatible automation solutions during 2001. LTO Ultrium has also received strong system OEM endorsement; in fact, five out of the six leading server vendors announced the availability of LTO-based systems in 2001. Over the next three to five years, LTO Ultrium is expected to meet and surpass the market position today occupied by competing proprietary technologies.
The Dell LTO Ultrium family
Dell offers a complete range of LTO Ultrium tape drives, libraries, and media covering entry-level to high-end data protection needs. DellTM LTO Ultrium drives can significantly extend the boundaries of reliability, capacity, and performance, allowing storage of up to 200 GB of compressed data on a single data cartridge—in as little as two hours. These high-performance drives are optimized for use in automated tape solutions with a 30 MB/second compressed transfer rate; a high-speed load/unload mechanism designed for 100 percent duty cycles; and a dedicated automation interface to ensure maximum integration between library and drive.
Automated for reliability and speed
Automated tape libraries, such as the Dell PowerVaultTM 122T and 136T LTO libraries, are designed for medium to large enterprises where uptime is critical, urgent restores are infrequent, and backup windows are minimal. Manual system backup requires dedicated IT staff to load tapes and ensure that backups occur as planned. This method is an inefficient and expensive use of resources rife with potential pitfalls, such as forgetting to change tapes, backing up data to the wrong tape, and logging entries incorrectly.
Figure 1: LTO dominates the super-drive space
The Dell PowerVault LTO libraries, on the other hand, perform backup operations without human intervention. This feature lowers the overall cost of backup and assures that mission-critical information is safe, accurate, up-to-date, and easily restored. Sophisticated backup software and library robotics technology help ensure that the library will always load the correct tape—preventing a failed backup to the wrong tape or the erasure of existing valuable data. If one backup spans more than a single cartridge, the library swaps the tape automatically without the need for monitoring or manual intervention.
Delivering the benefits of automated tape technology in a space-conscious 2U or 4U form factor, the PowerVault 122T and 132T LTO tape autoloaders are designed for simplicity. They feature an intuitive LCD panel and integrate with Dell Tape Backup Software by companies such as Computer Associates and VERITAS. Backups can run automatically and without human intervention. The optional barcode reader simplifies inventory organization, allowing users to easily locate cartridges.
The PowerVault 122T and 132T tape autoloaders also deliver the power needed for high-capacity, near-line, or archived automated storage, with compressed storage capacity up to 1.6 TB or 2.4 TB and backup rates of up to 108 GB/hr.
For even higher capacity and performance, the Dell PowerVault 136T LTO library provides the same automation benefits as the PowerVault 122T and 132T, but holds up to six LTO tape drives and 72 LTO 100 GB cartridges and offers a maximum compressed capacity of up to 14.4 TB. The PowerVault 136T also offers a peak backup rate of up to 648 GB/hour compressed.
No more costly surprises
With the ability to tolerate more than one million cartridge swaps, the Dell PowerVault LTO tape libraries improve reliability and help protect an organization's storage investment. The LTO drives in the library include powerful error correction codes to reconstruct missing or damaged data and read-while-write verification, delivering high data integrity assurance.
In addition to a local LCD panel on the front of the unit, the Dell PowerVault 136T LTO library also offers remote management and diagnostic capabilities through an integrated Web browser. Network administrators can monitor the status of single or dispersed units and diagnose any library or drive problems from the convenience of their workstations. In turn, these capabilities help reduce maintenance costs and improve a company's ability to identify and fix problems before a backup/restore fails and data is lost.
Long live tape
So where does the LTO Ultrium format go from here? Its official, four-generation roadmap shows capacity and performance doubling every 18 to 24 months—right up to a 1.6 TB capacity and 320 MB/second transfer rate.
As the storage demands of e-business applications continue to rise, the rapid growth path of LTO should give companies confidence that it is the best tape storage solution available. Not only is LTO open and future-proof, it offers capacity and performance that existing tape formats simply cannot touch. And as always, Dell leads the way with its family of LTO Ultrium drives, media, and libraries—solutions that deliver the data protection your business deserves both today and tomorrow.
For more information, please visit: www.dell.com or www.lto-technology.com
About the author: Simon Watkins (email@example.com) is the LTO Ultrium product manager for the Hewlett-Packard® OEM Storage group. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 11 years and has spent the last three years working with enterprise customers and system and automation vendors to define and launch the Hewlett-Packard LTO Ultrium family of tape products.